Look into my eyes, look into my eyes…and sleep! You are now under my complete control and will do everything I say…
It’s funny how, when you ask people about their opinion on hypnosis, you get a lot of responses that are close to or in some way related to this.
I first trained as a hypnotherapist when I was 22 and ever since then, when I’ve told people about it, I’ve had some pretty weird looks and often some even weirder questions.
The all time most popular question from the men (usually asked in a kind of ‘half joking, half serious way’) has to be: “Can you use hypnosis to get girls into bed?!” Closely followed by a genuine request to ‘Make Darren dance like a chicken’ (Act like a tumble drier is one of the stranger ones)
My female friends tend to ask a lot more intelligent questions…Usually ones involving the practical applications like relaxation, weight loss and confidence while remarking how fascinating a subject it is.
However, I did get asked by one woman at a party if I had ‘brought my watch with me’because she would ‘love it if I made her stop eating!’ I said I could but asked if she realized that stopping eating would in fact lead eventually to death!”
She looked at me kind of strangely and re-stated with complete conviction that she really needed to stop and I had free reign do my ‘voodoo magic’ on her…
I think the general perception of hypnosis has improved a lot over the years but there are still lots of misconceptions about what it actually is and how it works. Stage hypnosis certainly doesn’t help but I think it would be a bit rich to criticize given that the high level of intrigue surrounding it is probably one of the biggest factors in making hypnosis so widely recognised.
It does lead to a lot of misinterpretations about hypnosis though that can sometimes get in the way when you are either working with a client or training people how to use it.
Here are what I consider to be the 3 main myths of Hypnosis and hypnotic trance. Hopefully it will clear things up a bit and help give you a better understanding into what is, in my opinion, one of the most useful therapeutic and personal development tools we have available.
Myth number 1 – When you are in a hypnotic trance you are zapped, zonked out or in some weird unnatural state.
This is a favourite…That idea that when you are hypnotised you ‘get put under’ and that you are in some weird, zonked out state of mind as if your brain has been stopped in some way. The truth is hypnosis can feel a little strange (in a very pleasant way) but it is by no means unnatural.
Hypnotic trance is a perfectly natural state that we go in and out of at various different times of the day. It can often be like a ‘deep daydream’ or similar to the feeling you get when you becoming so absorbed in what you’re doing (like reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game). An hour can go past and it feels like it’s only been ten minutes, people can walk past you and you don’t notice them and the world around you can almost feel like it’s disappeared because you’re so engaged in what you were doing.
There are lots of different examples of ‘naturally occurring’ trances we experience on a day to day basis. For example, have you ever driven your car on a routine destination (perhaps to your work) and then, when you arrive, you can’t fully remember how you got there? You don’t consciously remember every turn, road sign and roundabout but you know you managed to navigate the journey safely. Perhaps you kind of went into auto pilot or maybe even a little daydream while at the same time feeling comfortable that you didn’t have to have your full conscious attention on the road. We all experience this from time to time, sometimes everyday and it’s a common example of when we drop into a hypnotic trance.
A more comical example is the ‘elevator trance’ (one that I frequently succumb to). You step into an elevator, punch in your floor number and patiently wait for your destination to arrive…The doors open and you walk out only to notice that you are, in fact, on the wrong floor! The turn back round with your tail between your legs (while checking to see if anyone noticed) and head back in the lift.
It’s an understandable opinion that hypnosis is a weird, unnatural state of mind but it is utterly misinformed and untrue. It’s a perfectly natural, enjoyable and useful state of mind that we all go into at various times of the day and the hypnotist’s job is to guide the person into this state of mind, deepen it and then put forward suggestions so that they get the changes they want.
Myth number 2 – The hypnotist had complete control and can get you to do things you don’t want to do.
Again this is a common myth that can often concern people when you mention hypnosis and one that is definitely born from stage hypnosis. Let me be clear about this…hypnosis is very powerful and can most definitely influence people to change deeply held emotions, behaviours and mind sets. However, the power it has is held by the hypnotic subject rather than the hypnotist.
There’s that phrase we often use that ‘there is no such thing as hypnosis only guided self hypnosis’ which is very accurate about what really goes in the trance process. As a hypnotist you are a guide that helps the hypnotic subject through an exploration of their own mind to find different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
You may be thinking though - ‘Well that’s all fine and dandy but what about stage hypnosis?’ ‘Surely that gets people to do things they don’t want to do?!’ Well, I know it seems that way but the truth is a bit different. The hypnotic subjects know fine well what they are getting themselves into when they volunteer. They know it’s an entertainment show, a performance and that they are going to be asked to do things they wouldn’t normally do. By walking on the stage and volunteering they are essentially saying ‘I am okay with this’ at a subconsciously level and possibly a conscious one.
Stage hypnotists also go through something called a ‘selection process’ where they work their way down from a large number of volunteers to just a handful. This process is designed to highlight the ones who are highly suggestible and deep down feel the most comfortable with going along with pretty much everything the hypnotist says. There are also a lot of other psychological factors involved such as crowd psychology that add to what is already a very persuasive hypnotic environment.
The kind of hypnosis that is used on a one to one basis shares some similarities but is not the same.
Essentially the subject is the one who makes the shifts and changes and the hypnotist acts as a guide. The more skilful a guide you are the better a hypnotist you are…The trick is to weave your words in such a way that the person being hypnotized attaches their own meanings and reaches their own solutions as opposed to you ‘just telling them to do something’. It’s a highly skilled craft and can be truly mesmerizing to watch and listen to when it’s done well.
Myth number 3 – Not everyone can be hypnotized…
This one has probably been covered already indirectly but I think it still merits its own mention. I’m not exactly sure when and where this popular myth was created but I think it may have come from a time when the main style of hypnosis was ‘Authoritarian hypnosis’. This is where you are very direct about how you induce trance and give suggestions for changing behaviours, emotions and mind sets. This type of hypnosis can work with a small percentage of people and is certainly worth doing as part of the hypnotic process but if it’s the only approach you have then there will be a large number of people who will not respond. (Both in going in trance and making changes)
Modern day hypnosis is about utilizing the hypnotic subject’s experience of the world to guide them into trance and then allow them to explore further. It’s about recognising that trance is a naturally occurring state and that everyone goes in and out it at some point during the day. Given the discovery that trance is, in fact, not some weird unnatural state this myth should really be confined to the bin.
People are often a bit confused, however, after they are hypnotized as to whether they were in fact in trance. Some will even convince themselves that they weren’t because it didn’t feel that much different than relaxation, meditation or being in a daydream. This is more of a reflection on public perception of what trance is than the reality. Because trance is something we have all experienced then it does feel similar to experiences we have already had. That doesn’t make it any less useful though it just leads to people mistakenly jumping to the conclusion that they ‘ couldn’t get put under!’
For more information on hypnosis feel free to comment and/or get in touch. We’re always happy to chat about it. If you fancy learning hypnosis check out our weekend seminar that’s coming up soon: